The origins of APLESA date back to 1986. It arose as a need for an interest group for parliamentary librarians to be established to stand as an organ of the Standing Conference of Eastern and Southern Africa Librarians (SCECSAL). Members of the Interim Committee formed then were supposed to be those who were able to attend SCECSAL conferences and meet as distinct group in order to share experiences and compare notes on parliamentary aspects. It took a little bit of time for this noble idea to take off due to a variety of reasons among which was the inability of the people concerned to attend SCECSAL conferences as they were not funded by the parent institutions (parliaments).
In March 1990, Mr. Winford Gurure- a librarian to Parliament of Zimbabwe revived the idea and sent circulars inviting colleagues in the eastern and southern Africa region about it. The idea was given support in August 1990 when it was introduced at the Satellite meeting of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) section on Libraries and Research services for parliaments and at the main meetings of IFLA in Oslo and Stockholm respectively.